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Orioles minor league week in review: Baysox toss no-hitter, IronBirds stay sizzling hot

Gunnar Henderson won Eastern League Player of the Week honors in an action-packed week for Bowie, while Adley Rutschman and D.L. Hall made their way to Norfolk.

Altoona Curve v Bowie Baysox Photo by 2021 Rodger Wood/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Another week, another rich tapestry of storylines in the Orioles’ farm system.

The big news this week, of course, was the continued rehab of Adley Rutschman, the #1 Orioles prospect in Camden Chat’s composite top 30 list and the near-consensus best prospect in baseball. Rutschman began the week with the Baysox but played just three games there before moving up to Norfolk on Thursday, possibly because of the grim weekend weather forecast that ended up postponing consecutive games in Bowie.

Adley swung a hot bat at both stops, going 5-for-12 with two doubles for the Baysox and 3-for-10 with the Tides. The only thing he hasn’t done yet is homer. My guess is that Rutschman will spend one more week with Norfolk and get a call-up to the show six days from now, May 16, when the Orioles begin their next homestand. You heard it here first. (Unless I’m wrong, in which case, forget you heard anything.)

But there are plenty of non-Rutschman prospects worth keeping an eye on, as well. Let’s take a look at how they fared this past week.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • This week: 2-4 at Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
  • Next: vs. Memphis Redbirds (15-15, Cardinals)
  • Season record: 14-16, sixth place (4.0 GB) in International League East

On a team that currently boasts a couple of the most highly touted prospects in baseball, a few less-heralded names have stepped up. Let’s give a shout-out to Tides reliever Nick Vespi, who holds a perfect 0.00 ERA through 10 appearances, along with 17 strikeouts and just two walks in 11.2 innings. Vespi, 26, has been in the Orioles’ organization for eight years — he was an 18th-round draft pick in 2015 — and was never considered a real prospect, but his breakout since converting to relief is attracting some media attention. Also carrying a flawless ERA is minor league Rule 5 pick Cole Uvila, who has given up just four hits and struck out 14, though his seven walks in 12 innings suggest he might not be as big league ready as Vespi.

OK, now back to the highly touted prospects, including the top pitching prospect in MLB, Grayson Rodriguez (#2 in our composite list). The big right-hander made one start this week and worked 5.1 scoreless innings, rebounding nicely from a rough, five-run hiccup in his previous outing. Rodriguez gave up just two hits and struck out five, though his three walks weren’t ideal.

On the hitting side, Rylan Bannon was a one-man RBI machine this week. His nine ribbies were as many as the rest of the team combined, and he supplied two of the Tides’ three homers in the series, including a grand slam on Friday. Bannon very much runs hot and cold — this .935 OPS week came immediately on the heels of an 0-for-24 drought. Is this just who he is? He’s probably worth an audition in the bigs, regardless.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Kyle Stowers (#8, tied): It was another forgettable week for Stowers, who went just 2-for-20 with no extra-base hits. The Birds’ 2021 minor league home run leader hasn’t really gotten it going at Triple-A this year, batting .213 with a .736 OPS, though he’s cut down his strikeout rate from a galling 32 percent last year to 22 percent this season.
  • RHP Mike Baumann (#13): After spending the first month in the Orioles’ bullpen, Baumann was demoted to Norfolk this week and made two appearances, giving up one run in four innings. Both outings came in relief, so it appears the Birds aren’t immediately planning to convert Baumann back to a starting role.
  • IF Jahmai Jones (#21): Jones went 5-for-19 for the week, just enough to bring his season average back above the Mendoza line to .212. The Orioles currently have a gaping hole at the second base position, but Jones isn’t doing enough to claim it.
  • LHP Kevin Smith (#24): Smith pitched just one inning this week, working as an apparent opener. Even in that small sample size, he issued two walks. Control problems continue to plague the southpaw, who was removed from the 40-man roster.
  • OF Yusniel Diaz (#28): After missing three weeks with a hamstring injury, Diaz returned to the lineup and played four games, picking up three singles. It’s good to see him back on the field, even if his hot bat didn’t return with him.
  • RHP Logan Gillaspie (#29, tied): The 25-year-old righty made his Triple-A debut and didn’t go particularly well. Gillaspie gave up two runs and three hits in 1.1 innings.

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • This week: 3-2 vs. Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)
  • Next: at Reading Fightin Phils (11-16, Phillies)
  • Season record: 12-13, fifth place (3.0 GB) in Eastern League Southwest

It was quite the week for the Baysox, who on Sunday twirled the 11th no-hitter in franchise history. In a seven-inning game to open a doubleheader, right-hander Garrett Stallings — acquired in the Jose Iglesias trade — tossed the first six of those spotless frames, with Morgan McSweeney handling the final three outs. Stallings allowed just two baserunners, both on walks, and struck out five.

The Baysox flashed the bats, too, led by Eastern League Player of the Week Gunnar Henderson (#3, tied). The 2019 second-round pick was an all-around star, not only racking up a team-high nine hits, posting a club-leading 1.365 OPS, and smacking a home run, but also stealing four bases without getting caught. He’s now slashing .309/.459/.506 this year while being three years young for the level. The Henderson hype train is picking up steam every day.

Going in the opposite direction is a guy often paired with Henderson on the left side of the infield, third baseman Jordan Westburg (#6). The 2020 first-rounder was just 1-for-11 this week (though he did draw four walks) and has stumbled to a .187/.308/.396 line this season. His five home runs, though, lead the team.

Other notable prospects:

  • LHP D.L. Hall (#3, tied): Continuing to ramp back up from the elbow stress reaction that cost him most of the 2021 season, Hall stopped at Bowie this week, giving up two runs and striking out six in 3.2 “dazzling” innings. He was charged with one walk, but that came when he was called for an automatic ball four for not adhering to the minor league pitch clock. Tough crowd. Hall was moved up to Norfolk after the game and will make his Triple-A debut sometime this week.
  • SS Joey Ortiz (#14): Ortiz went 4-for-13 with a homer and five RBIs this week, but has a ways to go to boost his .612 season OPS to a respectable level.
  • LHP Drew Rom (#15): Rom picked up a victory with a 5.1-inning start, striking out six. He gave up two runs but deserved a better fate, as the defense got sloppy behind him in the sixth.
  • OF Hudson Haskin (#18, tied): Just a 2-for-15 week for Haskin, but it hardly dampens his impressive .300/.425/.543 slash line for the season.
  • OF Adam Hall (#27): Hall landed on the injured list with an undisclosed injury and did not play this week.

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • This week: 4-1 vs. Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
  • Next: at Hudson Valley Renegades (14-11, Yankees)
  • Season record: 19-6, first place (5.5 games ahead) in South Atlantic League North

The IronBirds continue to run roughshod over the South Atlantic League, already building up a sizable cushion in their division while boasting the third-best run differential in minor league baseball. And while it’s usually the ample supply of hitting prospects who get most of the attention, this week Aberdeen’s starting rotation was the highlight.

The IronBirds’ five starting pitchers — Justin Armbruester, Connor Gillispie, Houston Roth, Carlos Tavera, and Jean Pinto — combined to allow just one earned run in 20 innings (0.45 ERA). Tavera, the Orioles’ fifth round pick last year, was particularly impressive, striking out five in four hitless innings. Not to be outdone was 22-year-old righty Ignacio Feliz, who added a brilliant long relief performance: five scoreless, one-hit innings, with five strikeouts.

No IronBirds hitter was particularly great or particularly terrible this week, though unranked prospect Billy Cook, last year’s 10th rounder, hit two home runs. But give credit to 2021 first round pick Colton Cowser (#3, tied) for his patience at the plate; he drew seven walks in 19 plate appearances. Cowser’s .253 average and .398 SLG this year don’t jump off the page, but a .388 OBP is a promising sign.

Other notable prospects:

  • IF Coby Mayo (#7): It was a homerless week for the slugging third baseman, whose four hits for the week included three singles and a double.
  • IF Connor Norby (#11): Norby’s week featured a double and a triple, but no walks. The 2021 second rounder has an .835 OPS this year.
  • IF Cesar Prieto (#16, tied): Only injury could slow down the red-hot Prieto, who missed this week with a hamstring strain.
  • OF John Rhodes (#23): Despite a 2-for-14 week, Rhodes has put up a strong .923 OPS, second on the team to Prieto’s 1.079. He’s really flying under the radar.

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • This week: 3-3 at Columbia Fireflies (Royals)
  • Next: vs. Salem Red Sox (11-15, Red Sox)
  • Season record: 9-18, sixth place (8.5 GB) in Carolina League North

This young Shorebirds team is going through some growing pains this year, falling to last place in their six-team division. But they’ve got a leader in shortstop Darell Hernaiz (#29, tied), who at just age 20 is a veteran of the club, having spent all of 2021 with Delmarva. He has improved his game across the board, now slashing .318/.356/.612 with five home runs and 19 RBIs after a solid, seven-hit week. The Orioles’ lone high school draftee from 2021, catcher Creed Willems, suffered a miserable 1-for-19 week with 10 strikeouts. He’s just 2-for-30 in his first experience with a full-season affiliate.

Delmarva’s best start this week came from Shane Davis, a 2020 undrafted free agent. He worked six scoreless innings, striking out seven and walking one. The 22-year-old righty has been sensational this season, posting a 2.81 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in six starts. But the news wasn’t so good for 18-year-old Venezuelan righty Moises Chace, who was bombed for six runs (five earned) and five hits in 1.2 innings.

**

Last week, Coby Mayo’s four-homer performance earned him a whopping 74 percent of the vote in our Player of the Week poll. That made him our fourth different winner in as many weeks, following Haskin, Kyle Bradish, and Prieto. With none of those four included in this week’s poll, we’re about to have our fifth different winner.

Poll

Who is your Orioles minor league player of the week ending 5/7?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Rylan Bannon, Norfolk (2 HRs, 9 RBIs, grand slam, .935 OPS)
    (16 votes)
  • 82%
    Gunnar Henderson, Bowie (9-for-17, 1.365 OPS, 4 SBs, Eastern League Player of the Week)
    (299 votes)
  • 12%
    Garrett Stallings, Bowie (six no-hit innings, combined for 11th no-hitter in Baysox history)
    (44 votes)
  • 0%
    Shane Davis, Delmarva (6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K)
    (2 votes)
361 votes total Vote Now